8 information architecture (IA) principles worth knowing

Information architecture (IA) is the practice or discipline of building or designing a structure or framework that allows the intended users of the system to efficiently find and retrieve the information they require.

Before looking at the principles, let’s first look at how Information Architecture is defined.

Information architecture (IA) focuses on organizing, structuring, and labeling content in an effective and sustainable way. The goal is to help users find information and complete tasks.  To do this, you need to understand how the pieces fit together to create the larger picture, how items relate to each other within the system.

usability.gov – https://www.usability.gov/what-and-why/information-architecture.html

Information Architecture is closely related to user experience (UX) design. Just like using a blueprint to build a house, UX designers use IA as their blueprint to build wireframes, sitemaps and navigation mechanisms. It’s an important skill to have and an important practice in itself.

So back to these 8 information architecture principles. Where do they come from?

The 8 principles of information architecture (IA) were conceived by Dan Brown (designer / author) after a client of his needed to justify the design she was presenting to her stakeholders. He put together this list of principles that is still relevant today. In 2010, he published an article in the Bulletin of the American Society for Information Science and Technology (PDF, 127 KB), detailing each principles.

8 principles of Information Architecture

  1. The Principle of Objects
    Treat content as a living, breathing thing with a lifecycle, behaviors and attributes.

  2. The Principle of Choices
    Create pages that offer meaningful choices to users, keeping the range of choices available focused on a particular task.

  3. The Principle of Disclosure
    Show only enough information to help people understand what kinds of information they’ll find as they dig deeper.

  4. The Principle of Exemplars
    Describe the contents of categories by showing examples of the contents.

  5. The Principle of Front Doors
    Assume at least half of the website’s visitors will come through some page other than the home page.

  6. The Principle of Multiple Classification
    Offer users several different classification schemes to browse the site’s content.

  7. The Principle of Focused Navigation
    Don’t mix apples and oranges in your navigation scheme.

  8. The Principle of Growth
    Assume the content you have today is a small fraction of the content you will have tomorrow.

As always, I’m providing below related resources worth checking out about IA.

Related resources